Are We Really in That Big of Hurry? And Is it Worth the Risk?


I am sitting at my desk. I have just hung up the phone from talking to a parent about a safety concern, on what I feel is the safest way to transport students to and from school, the school bus.

The mother stated she was returning home from work, and as she was driving up the road toward her subdivision, she noticed a big yellow bus turn into her neighborhood. She thought, (as a lot of people do), “Oh great, now I’m going to be stuck behind a bus.”

She turns on her signal and turns into her subdivision. She is surprised, because she is expecting to see the bus as she rounds the corner. She wondered if her eyes are playing tricks on her, because the bus had vanished. Then she sees it, the bus is about half a mile up the road. She tells me her first thought is, “This bus is speeding, and in a subdivision none the less.” She continues her story as I am thinking to myself “Who was the driver?” Was the culprit the infamous, “Oh, no I wasn’t” driver? Or, is this a newer driver who has yet to realize that you don’t speed in a a school bus!

All of us have looked down at one time or another and have noticed that we were going a bit over the speed limit. It’s those that don’t back off that worry me. In my opinion, school zones and subdivisions are very dangerous places for children and traffic. School zones and subdivisions are area where you should never speed for obvious reasons: safety! In fact, I have had an officer tell me he would rather have a person going 5 mph over in a 55 MPH zone than a driver doing 1 mph over in a school zone and will ticket them in a heartbeat. I feel the same way.

In these areas, the space between every parked car is a potential path for a child to run out in front of you. In a lot of these areas, it also does not leave a lot of room for two cars to pass let alone a bus and another vehicle, especially on corners. I have had many calls from people who say, “As I came around the corner, the bus was speeding toward me from the opposite direction, taking up both lanes,” which does not give the appearance of safety.

Even though our focus is on safety, there have still been times that I have had drivers in my office to discuss a call about speeding. A common response is, “It only sounds like I’m speeding. My speedometer says I am not.” In my opinion, there are speeders and there are those who get to the speed limit very fast. Both of these drivers scare me to death.

We all know that when we drive a bus, as we accelerate it sounds like the bus is going very fast. This is even truer in an enclosed neighborhood. One way of helping eliminate this problem, is to not “put the pedal to the metal,” so to speak. When we do as we are trained, we should be lightly pressing on the accelerator as we leave a stop. We do this for safety reasons as well as for saving the bus engine.

One sure way of minimizing calls on speeding bus drivers is to just slow down, my typical response when discussing the speeding issue with a driver: “If you’re driving in a subdivision and you keep getting calls on your speed, slow it down.”

I always remember when I was in training, when my trainer said, “We are never late, as long as we get the students to school safely.” This is a very safe way to think. Trying to get drivers to not be in such a hurry and at the same time telling them, “be on time” can be a bit frustrating for a bus driver. We understand how important it is to be on time but we never sacrifice safety to do it.

As drivers of the “Future Leaders” of our country, it is our responsibility to do our best to keep them safe. It is great to work in an industry that takes safety so seriously. We can all do our part in that by thinking safety every second we are on a bus. Life is too short as it is; let’s not do anything to jeopardize that. It has been said many times that we are hauling the most precious cargo in the world. I truly believe this. School buses have been labeled one of the safest ways to transport children. We can keep it that way by doing what should be natural for us.

Slow down and take time to do as we have been trained. Be proud to have the label, “The Best Drivers on Earth.” Strive to be a driver who puts safety first.

Darrel Christie is the assistant manager of student management for Brown Bus Company, a school bus contractor located in Nampa, Idaho.